Nov 182004
Authors: Bob Fernandez

After the CSU women's basketball team's 75-31 blowout win on Saturday over Colorado-Colorado Springs in the Rams' second and final exhibition game, junior guard Vanessa Espinoza was more than happy to say goodbye to the preseason and hello to the real thing.

"These exhibition games are fun, but you just want to get to the real thing," Espinoza said. "We worked so hard in practice, and just getting to that real game is what we worked for all year."

CSU's initial exhibition game resulted in an 89-39 win over Western State. After getting through the preseason unscathed and untested, the Rams will kick off their regular season tonight at Moby Arena against the San Francisco Dons.

Head coach Chris Denker is 2-0 in regular season openers during his two-year tenure as CSU's head coach. CSU has defeated USF in each of the last two years.

"San Francisco is a team we've played for a very long time," Denker said. "We have a real good level of comfort with knowing their players. They have good post players and a great point guard."

The Dons' senior point guard, Toni Russell, was the West Coast Conference defender of the year last season. Last year, she averaged 9.8 points, 4.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

After their season opener against USF, the Rams will continue playing games throughout Fall Recess. On Monday, the Rams will travel to South Bend, Ind., to play Notre Dame, which is No. 10, according to the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.

Wednesday night, the Fighting Irish upset No. 6 Duke 76-65 in a preseason WNIT semifinal game. So far, Notre Dame is 5-0 in exhibition and preseason WNIT games. Before playing CSU, the Fighting Irish will play Ohio State Saturday in the preseason WNIT finals.

"(Notre Dame is) a really strong team," Denker said. "They have Jacqueline Batteast, who's a national player of the year candidate."

CSU sophomore guard Annika Walseth said she's looking forward to the challenge of playing Notre Dame on the road.

"(We're) definitely excited about (playing) Notre Dame, a top-ranked team, at their place," Walseth said. "(There's) a lot of tradition there. Getting a win out there would be huge for us."

After playing at Notre Dame, the Rams will come back home where they will play host to the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational tournament on Nov. 26 and 27. In the first game of the tournament, CSU will face Iona, and in the second and final game the Rams will play either Holy Cross or Alabama-Birmingham.

Walseth said she is excited to get the chance to play at home during Fall Recess.

"It's always good to have a couple games here, during Thanksgiving," Walseth said. "A lot of peoples' families (will be) coming out. There'll be a lot of people there. It's just fun to play at home."

Sophomore guard/forward Kylee O'Dwyer said she is excited to finally be kicking off the regular season.

"We have four really good teams coming up," O'Dwyer said. "We're going to have to go out and play hard, and I think everybody's excited to have that competitiveness and that atmosphere around us. We're really going to have to mentally and physically be ready."

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